What is B2B Content Contextualization?

Research by Virto Commerce has shown that one of the primary drivers of the B2B buying decisions is the availability of product information that is concisely and comprehensively presented in the context customers need. For this very reason, personalization and contextualization of experiences are becoming even more important in ecommerce. While the concept of personalization implies delivering personalized experiences for individuals in B2C, contextualization implies the same customization of experiences for business entities in B2B. In this article, in particular, we’ll talk about content contextualization, which we understand as a seamless integration of products into the ecosystem of related touchpoints (such as tools and services that customers use along with the product).

We believe that what really drives the B2B buying behavior is not much different from B2C, something you’d expect in your personal life – the availability of complete and accurate product information online.

Contextualization for B2B ecommerce platforms

To achieve a greater degree of contextualization, your B2B ecommerce platform must seamlessly integrate with third party systems and internal software. Integration with other systems ensures your product information is up-to-date and complete. For example, an inventory management system needs to retrieve data from all possible sources on products, orders, and customers in order to display the required information in a timely and accurate manner to the relevant target audience.

What Virto Commerce currently observes on the market is the proliferation of different software aimed at consolidating product information and delivering it accurately and comprehensively across different channels. Below, we’ll discuss such software as Product Information Management (PIM), Content Management System (CMS), and Real-time Interaction Management (RTIM).

Product Information Management System (PIM)

PIM comprises a set of tools that centralize and manage ecommerce business product information to ensure data consistency across different channels. The difference between PIM and a typical Catalog Management software is that the former goes beyond data enrichment: PIM collects data from different data sources in different formats, combines them into a single source master data, fixes problematic data, and pushes clean data to relevant channels.

While information used to be collected, managed and stored in ERP, resulting in huge volumes of inconsistent data, PIM automatically pulls data from different sources (warehouse, procurement, suppliers, localized and mobile stores, etc.), thus enabling the display of accurate information. For example, you might store the warranty and shipment information in different locations. Still, on the product page, they are pulled from those locations and presented alongside in a comprehensible fashion.

Consider the following two examples:

Unstructured information

Example 1. Unstructured information

Structured information

Example 2. Structured information

The structured information in the second example, drawn from a variety of data sources, ensures that the information is accurate and displayed in an easily digestible format. You’ll also notice that the picture on the left is said to be presented in context. For illustrative purposes, consider another set of examples:

Generic picture of a drill

Example 3. Generic picture of a drill. Courtesy of Amazon

Drill in action.

Example 4. Drill in action. Courtesy of Protoolreviews.com

The second picture of a product in context is clearly evocative – it helps customers visualize themselves in the context of their jobs. A product makeup differs from a generic product spec in a way that makes the product personal – it shows vivid imagery and talks in the language of the customer’s industry. Content contextualization is about small changes: you still want to keep all the basic specifications intact and choose as little or as much as you want to get that feel for the right audience. For example, woodworkers would refer to an allen wrench as a drill, so you should name your product ‘a drill’ and show an image of a woodworker using your product in action. On the contrary, construction workers refer to the same tool as an allen wrench; therefore, show them a wrench and an image of a construction worker using it.

Obviously, to tailor relevant experiences to different audiences, you need to undertake preliminary research to carefully segment your target audience into customer personas.

It is worth underlining that quality product information is the foundation of a successful ecommerce business. For all systems to function effectively, product data has to be structured, clean, and enriched. Once you implement a strong data management plan, you can ensure a customer-centric and product-powered ecommerce strategy that will generate significant results.

To summarize, consider the following diagram:

real-time interaction management

From the above, you can see that PIM rests on the following pillars of product information:

  • Descriptions that talk in the language of a customer’s industry;

  • Product attributes with important technical specifications;

  • Supporting files like warranty, spec sheets, or other information that is linked to products and drives a lot of value;

  • Product images (not just generic pictures but application images (whether used in an automotive shop or on a construction site), which give people the confidence that they are buying the right product;

  • Product video that shows customers how a product works;

  • Product relationships that link products for upsells and cross sells, show adequate replacements, accessories and complementaries, or sort products as good-better-best.

Checklist for ensuring a great customer experience in B2B ecommerce 

Content Management Software (CMS)

A content management system is a software used to manage the creation and modification of digital content. CMS can help you deliver tailored, personalized, accessible, and relevant experiences to your B2B customers, along with the Product Information Management system. Because CMS differ in their functionality, choose one that is capable of publishing across different channels and can deliver dynamic content to meet customer demands. For example, you don’t have to update content across three different geographical channels manually. You create, use, and reuse the content in one single location and let the software run, disperse, and update that content across all channels automatically, including all three websites, B2B storefronts, and mobile apps.

Real-time Interaction Management System (RTIM)

RTIM curates real-time responses to customer events. Forrester, who coined the term, defines it as “enterprise marketing technology that delivers contextually relevant experiences, value, and utility at the appropriate moment in the customer life cycle via preferred customer touchpoints.” Sophisticated RTIMs not only combine the functionality of both PIM and CMS, but also use machine learning and analytics to personalize web engagement. The idea behind real-time interaction management is to assign different affinities to different products, all the way down to content elements like images and descriptions. Based on preliminary data, RTIM can determine if some content is better shown now, in real-time, or later, at some other point in a customer’s journey. The system also recommends what product to suggest and what content elements of that product should be shown. This way, RTIM provides an intelligent match between a consumer and a product.

Additional materials and a side note

In case you wonder how personalization differs in B2C and B2B, as well as get an in-depth understanding of how personalization in B2B works, you might be interested in a set of articles we’ve written on the subject:

Whatever your contextualization endeavors might be, the Virto Commerce B2B ecommerce platform can help you make them a reality. The Virto Commerce offers state-of-the-art technology and marketing expertise to help define and achieve your contextualization and personalization goals.

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Marina Vorontsova
Technical author and eCommerce advocate